María Apolonia, the majority and the seasoning of the La Ópera bar

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, at Sopitas.com We have wanted to get closer to the daily life, the day to day of Mexican women, who study, work and face many challenges daily in our country. Like María Apolonia Pachuca Hernández, or Reina, as everyone knows her, who is the majority in the bar La Ópera.

What is a majority?

Let’s start by explaining what a majority is, the profession that María Apolonia exercises in La Ópera. yes, according Larousse Kitchen, the majority are cooks who are trained on the job and, although they do not have formal studies in gastronomy, they have knowledge that they acquire throughout their lives; recipes, preparations, tips and the very seasoning are obtained over the years, even as an inheritance from their mothers, aunts and grandmothers.

But not only that, it is the highest rank that women can occupy in traditional cuisine, which would be chefs in restaurants.. However, unlike these, its importance does not lie in creativity, but in maintaining the flavor of a place or establishment, as well as that everything works in the kitchen in the best way, because they are the ones who direct.

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Photo: Erick Ponce.

And as he also points out Mexico UnknownWhile many chefs are dedicated to studying and preparing international cuisine dishes, the majority are focused on always improving their recipes based on traditional Mexican cuisine.

Or as the writer Laura Esquivel says, author of “Like water for Chocolate”and that they also quote in the article “Las mayoras, ancient flavor in Mexican cuisine”, they are defined in three words: wisdom, knowledge and tradition.

María Apolonia, mayor of La Ópera

María Apolonia says that she came to work at La Ópera as a major because of a neighbor who recommended it to her, since she had previously worked in the industrial dining room of a laboratory. In the end, he would end up encouraging himself to cook in this historic bar in the Historic Center of Mexico City..

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Photo: Erick Ponce.

So is; Before, she was in an industrial dining room, where she started working as a cook preparing sauces, waters, some stews and even desserts. At that time it was out of necessity, since her husband had gone to the United States and she needed money to survive.. As one of her cousins ​​was already in the laboratory, she asked her if she didn’t know of any work, to which she answered yes, there was one in the kitchen of this place.

After leaving here, he spent some time without working, until the neighbor we were telling you about insisted that he venture to be at La Ópera. Although at first she was not so convinced, she decided to do it and currently works in the morning hours, from 09:00 to 18:00..

“I like learning”

In the industrial dining room of the laboratory I would begin to learn to cook more things thanks to a ladylike some sauces that he now makes and many love them.

But it was not always like that, also in her journey as a cook she has found people who did not dare and did not take the time to teach her, so she had to learn and practice new dishes on her own. “If you find a chef who is really a good person and wants you to go up, learn; he teaches you, he tells you, if not he does not tell you (…) There are bad people and there are good people ”.

When he arrived at La Ópera he continued his apprenticeship and began to prepare more dishes or ones that, although he already knew, were now in large quantities. For example, he says that at the beginning he did not know how to prepare much rice, so he had to learn along the way until now he does it in one, two by three.

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Photo: Erick Ponce.

For all this, during her work as a cook and as a majority, her greatest challenge has been learning. But no, she doesn’t care, always looking to update and even check the internet, recipes and videos to know how to prepare new things.

“I like learning. There are times when in the Face then I see the sauces and say ‘oh, that one looks good, I’m going to make it’”. In fact, on his day off, in addition to doing some chores around the house such as cleaning, washing clothes, or preparing a week’s worth of food, he takes the opportunity to discover new recipes on the internet. And no, she doesn’t need to write anything down; she learns them and then does them.

One day working as a major at La Ópera

Reina, as she is also known because her mother told her, not only cooks for the clients, she also does it for the restaurant staff: she throws everything from the stews to the rice and sauces for the workers; although he also prepares chamorros, suckling pig, baked brisket and soups that are served to diners.

On a normal work day, she gets up at 05:00, takes a shower and then has breakfast. It is then that she grabs her uniform and leaves her house to reach 5 de Mayo avenue number 10, in the Historic Center of CDMX, to start working as a major in La Ópera, as far as it takes more or less two and a half hours, since he lives in San Vicente Chicoloapan, in the State of Mexico.

Photo: Erick Ponce.

When he arrives at 09:00, he first opens the gas tap and turns on the grill, the iron and takes the things he needs out of the refrigerator. If any ingredient is missing, he makes a list and gives it to the person in charge of the winery so that he can give it to him. Then he begins to prepare foods such as suckling pig, breast or chamorros in the oven, which are the most requested.

On the other hand, for the service, the sauces and stews have to be made every day. For them, he prepares everything from milanesas and fish, to basket tacos or other dishes such as mole or stuffed chilies.

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Photo: Erick Ponce.

It is from 12:00 or 1:00 p.m. that the service begins at La Ópera, but a little earlier it begins to shred chicken because the things that are most requested are tacos and enchiladas; and he also has to heat marrow sauce, have garlic and onions ready for soups. For all this, always try to have all the ingredients you will need at hand, as well as your hot pots and pans..

The same tells us that Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are the days when there are more people, especially after 3:00 p.m. So until 6:00 p.m., when the work day ends and the relays arrive.

“I do everything with love, I like to do everything”

“For me, things are easy for me, I’m not like ‘ah, I have to do it’, I like to do it, everything I do, I like it, it’s easy for me, it’s not difficult for me (…) I like my job, I like what I do, it fills me up”.

And he also loves that people like what he preparesthat the staff of La Ópera and relatives tell him that his dishes and sauces were delicious and even ask him if he is not going to make them again.

For example, one of the dishes that he likes to make the most is Veracruz-style fish, which he prepares with bell pepper, onion, olives. capers, thyme, white wine, tomato, bay leaves and chile güero.

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Photo: Erick Ponce.

Or the mole poblano, which he makes from scratch: toast the ancho, mulato and chipotle chili; then the peanut, the tortilla and the plantain are fried; he also puts chocolate, almonds, raisins and cookies. All the preparation she learned from her mother, who was, like her, originally from Puebla.

But it was not the only dish he learned from his motherWell, he still remembers how he taught him to prepare other things such as stuffed chili peppers, beans and also the blue corn pinole atole.

“I do everything with love, I like to do everything”says and adds that all women in Mexico manage to cook rich and nutritious food with few ingredients, often because of the economy that families have in our country: “I think Mexican women know how to do many things”Finally, María Apolonia points out, the majority and the flavor of La Ópera.